Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning
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Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

The Path to Sustainability

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Improvement is fundamental to the competitiveness of networks and requires the participating firms to collaborate in identifying and introducing changes. This book presents collaborative strategic improvement as a cycle of activities in which firms in a network can engage together. Drawing on actual cases, authors link this cycle with disciplined action learning as a means of building upon experience generated through collaborative action. They describe how a network can learn from experience and deploy that learning in the marketplace.
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Chapter 1: Overture

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan


THE CONTEXT It is not too long ago that successful firms were largely self-sufficient and vertically integrated. That profile does not hold today. Firms trade and compete now as partners or members of a chain, or a network of firms. Such a change in organizational form, derived from competitive imperatives, carries with it both opportunities and burdens of responsibility. These new organizational forms are reflected internally as structures built around competencies and knowledge, and externally as alliances, networks and collaborative relationships with customers. The nature of technology and the interconnectedness of technologies mean, in many cases, that the development and implementation of new products and processes is beyond the financial scope and capabilities of an individual firm. As a result, the new relationship within and between organizations contains both business and learning imperatives. Developing and sustaining this relationship is a challenge for which there is no obvious solution that can be advised by experts. Rather, each firm and group of firms has to take its own actions and create its own learning that fits and extends competitiveness sustainably. It is the argument of this book that sustainable strategic improvement is based on action and learning within and between firms and that developing learning capabilities through appropriate learning mechanisms is central. SUSTAINABILITY As knowledge changes at a discontinuous rate, the commercial imperative for survival and sustainability is grounded in an ability to learn, not only by adapting to the changing circumstances but by shaping the new circumstances in which learning can...

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